Present-day waste sorting processes cannot distinguish reliably between recyclable and non-recyclable packaging.

This is why R-Cycle records packaging properties during production and supplies this data to improve the sorting process at the end of the life cycle.


If you look at present-day waste streams, even fully recyclable packaging normally goes to landfills, is burned, or – at worst – ends up in the environment. Only a very low percentage of plastic waste (16%, Germany)* is processed into recyclate.

Taking a closer look, this 16% is downcycled rather than recycled. Due to the mixing of different plastics, recyclate obtained from present-day waste streams can only be used in very basic applications, such as thick-walled injection molded parts or, at best, as black garbage bags. These applications do not allow for any further recycling cycles.

* (2019)


To achieve a genuine circular economy, a tracing standard is required for plastic packaging, that records all recycling-relevant information collected from the production process in the form of a digital product passport. This passport must be accessible by a marking on the packaging at the end of its lifecycle. In this way, waste sorting facilities can identify fully recyclable packaging by using standard detection technologies. Pure fractions within the recycling process that supply detailed information on their exact composition are the key to obtaining high-quality recyclate for true recycling.


As a cross-industry consortium, we are working on an open and globally applicable tracing standard to ensure the seamless documentation of recyclable packaging along the value chain – stored on a common data platform. It is accessible to any production facility, from plastic film or injection molding machines through to converting, printing, and filling machines. To retrieve the stored information, a marker – for example a QR or digital watermark code – is applied to the packaging.

R-Cycle is developed to market maturity by a number of technology companies and organizations across the entire value chain. The tracing technology behind R-Cycle is based on GS1 standards – the leading global network for cross-industry process development used by more than six billion scanned barcodes every day.

Are you interested in participating in the creation of a genuine cradle-to-cradle recycling system? Then contact us.

Pilot project:

This is how R-Cycle works

Our consortium partner Brückner Maschinenbau shows an advanced crisp bag production, ready for the circular economy.

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What the industry says about us:

R-Cycle in the media

Read a selection of reports about R-Cycle from various trade journals, platforms and partners.

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Together for the circular economy

Join the R-Cycle Community

We are an association of companies and organizations who promote the global standardization of Digital Product Passports for sustainable plastic packaging – based on GS1 standards.

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Circular Economy in Practice

R-Cycle offers the solution

R-Cycle creates one of the key prerequisites for the recycling of plastics: With the application of a mark to identify a packaging, a cloud-based database traces the entire value chain down to the raw materials used.

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Closing the Loop

R-Cycle is making rapid progress

Our aim is to implement a practical solution to make rapid progress toward a closed-loop circular economy. In collaboration with packaging manufacturers, brand owners, wholesalers, and retailers we introduce global identification numbers and develop IoT gateways, the necessary server infrastructure and standardized formats for secure data exchange.

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Frequent Questions and Answers

Why is recycling plastics so difficult?

Contrary to aluminum or paper, packaging made of plastic is non-homogeneous in most cases. It is made up of a wide range of constituents, for example different plastics, additives, printing inks or adhesives. This makes sorting more difficult in the recycling process since there is no method to reliably distinguish recyclable plastics from non-recyclable plastics. It is therefore almost impossible to separate them into single-sort fractions.

The fractions recovered today can merely be converted into low-quality recyclates that are suitable only for a very limited range of applications (e.g. to produce garbage containers or park benches). Low-quality recyclate is unusable for high-quality applications, such as food packaging. As a result, large volumes of plastic waste end up in thermal recycling (incineration). Before recyclate can be transformed into food packaging, a process must be found to ensure that it does not contain any toxic substances. It is therefore essential to trace the origin of recyclate.

Is the initiative in competition with other initiatives?

R-Cycle is not in competition with any other initiatives. On the contrary, R-Cycle was launched as a complementary project to existing circular economy initiatives. The R-Cycle initiative focuses on deploying the necessary databases to store packaging data and make it accessible to third parties. The results of other initiatives, e.g. those that concentrate on marking technologies, are actually the basic prerequisites for the functioning of R-Cycle. In turn, other initiatives can make use of the data gathered by R-Cycle. Hence R-Cycle provides a complementary concept to other circular economy initiatives.

Will I be obliged to disclose trade secrets, such as recipes?

No. In the same way, the recipe for Cola is top secret. Although all the ingredients are listed on the bottles, nobody can copy the beverage. R-Cycle will receive solely all the data specific to recycling. This does not include any process data or constituents that have nothing to do with the recycling process. The system also uses a number of authorization levels. In other words, end-users are not privy to the same information as manufacturers.